Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Vulnerability of Needing Two Breadwinners in a Family

A friend of mine is losing his job. And with two young children at home. We've all heard it before, so just [insert heart wrenching tale of woe here].

But this brings me to something Elizabeth Warren talked about during a lecture I saw on YouTube a while back, which I'll try to locate. (Found it, it's posted at the bottom)/

One thing we don't often consider when thinking about the modern American family compared to fifty years ago is the consequences of needing both parents to work in order to support the family. Good that we're starting to move beyond the Woman Defaults to Staying Home. Bad that we need BOTH parents working to get by.

Fifty years ago when households were mostly supported by a single breadwinner, if an emergency came up and the family suddenly needed more money, the other person could seek out some paying work or even a job to keep the family in the black.

OR...if the main breadwinner lost his job, BOTH parties could theoretically go out and look for work, increasing the likelihood of success.

Or if there was a severe illness in the could stay with the loved one, while the other continued to bring home money.

That type of model had quite a bit more flexibility than the modern American family has.

At the current state, the family is maxed out. Over time they may each be able to find a higher paying job...but in the case of a sudden emergency and sudden demand for more money than is available, there are few places to turn but credit.

And now, instead of a family having DOUBLE the chances of FINDING a job, it has DOUBLE the chances of LOSING a job. Since the family is maxed out and demands both incomes to get by, just one person losing a job knocks the family down.

When a family member gets seriously ill and requires care, long term....there's nobody to take that role without reliquishing a job. OR if one of the working parents gets ill long term and cannot work........same thing.

The father of a friend of mine used to work for the paper mill before it closed down after a century of operations here. He made good money, there. Made a good living there. Helped send his daughter college from his earnings, she was the first person in his family to go to college. He made good benefits. Had security during sick leave.

But that job is gone, now. He now works for $9 an hour, and when he got sick and needed to take 7 days off from work, he was threatened with losing his job after 4 days off, and he came back to work 3 days earlier than his doctor told him he should. Both he and his wife work, now. And they are moving up in years, into their 60s. I was saying at the beginning of this post: a friend of mine is losing his job. And I don't know what his family is going to do.

Last night I heard our governor, Governor Snyder, giving the State of the State Address. He touted the rebound of the domestic auto industry at least three times during his speech, without once mentioning the Obama administration. And unlike Obama who, when citing progress, adds there's much work still to be done....Governor Snyder shouted victoriously several times that Michigan's unemployment has fallen to 9.8%.

AHA! Here it is

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